Shiny Shelf

The Pulse #1

By Mark Clapham on 22 February 2004

‘The Pulse’ is the non-mature readers follow-up to Brian Michael Bendis’ acclaimed Max series ‘Alias’, and sees Jessica Jones joining the staff of the Daily Bugle. This first issue spends most of its page count setting up the high-concept for the series, a Bugle pull-out section devoted to New York’s superheroes and their lives. Pro that he is, Bendis has given his cast a set of different motivations for being involved with publication of ‘The Pulse’. For editor and professional hero-hater J Jonah Jameson, it’s a desperate bid for higher circulation, and an acknowledgement that his previous hard line may have been unfair. For journalist Ben Urich, it’s a chance to get his journalistic career out of a rut caused by the compromises of balancing his friendship with heroes with his desire to find stories. For Jessica, hired as a consultant and expert adviser, it’s an opportunity to get a stable income and insurance benefits as she starts a family with boyfriend Luke Cage.

With characters and themes from ‘Alias’, as well as Bendis’ work on ‘Daredevil’ and ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’, and artwork from ‘Ultimate Spidey’ collaborator Mark Bagley, it’s understandable that ‘The Pulse’ feels like an odd combination of all Bendis’ previous Marvel work, a mish-mash of different titles. Bagley, a comics artist in the classic mould who always tells a story clearly with clean, open linework, brings a sense of light and space to Jessica’s new, happier life, a definite change from the gloomier work of Michael Gaydos on ‘Alias’. His clarity extends to character work, with the expressions of the various characters reflecting their complex emotional states. The art isn’t entirely sweetness and light, though, with heavy blacks from Scott Hanna indicating some of the darker moments, and a sense of almost oppressive bustle to the crowded scenes in the newsroom and a bar.

There’s a plot developing in the background of this issue, with a body fished out of the river, and this unfolds nicely enough through effective moments of New York city life. However, this issue is mainly about mood and tone, setting the direction for what the series will be like, outlining the characters of not just the people in the story, but the city and the workplaces as well. Bendis is clearly going for a smart ensemble series set in the Marvel universe, an equivalent to DC’s ‘Gotham Central’ but with a lighter, snappier tone. As such, it’s a shame that this book is behind schedule and will be bi-monthly for the first few issues, as a rapid speed of publication would benefit a title like this. Nonetheless, this seems like another hit for Bendis, and a worthy sequel to ‘Alias’.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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